Mary and the Witch's Flower was produced by Studio Ponoc, formed by former members of Studio Ghibli and directed by Academy Award-nominated Hiromasa Yonebayashi. It is based off of The Little Broomstick by the Scottish Mary Stewart, which is why it has a very Nothern atmosphere. Though originally released mid 2017 in Japan, Mary and the Witch's Flower only reached Australia on the 18th of January with dubs and subs both available.
As to be expected from former Ghibli staff, the production quality is excellent. The character designs are well done and modern, the artwork and animation is very impressive and the soundtrack, by Takatsugu Muramatsu
who also did the music for When Marnie Was There and Yuasa's Lu Over the Wall, is appropriate and grand. The soundtrack and visuals contribute greatly to the atmosphere and the impression we have of magic. The mark of a well directed movie is if it's easy to follow what is going on. An example of this concept done poorly is The Last Jedi, which was difficult to follow and was not exciting when exciting things were happening on screen. Mary and the Witch's Flower doesn't have any of those problems; the movie flows well and everything is clear.
The character of Mary is the polar opposite of Anna from When Marnie Was There (the Academy Award-nominated Yonebayashi film). Very energetic, tries to do everything, doesn't give up even when she's being a burden, etc. This works well to tell the story, especially since Mary is thrown into a place that she doesn't understand whatsoever. Willingness to try new things and having no earthly idea what is going on is a smart writing technique to introduce the world and important characters since it doesn't have to be preachy or on-the-nose with exposition. However, there is an exposition scene towards the end which didn't need to happen and opened up holes in the plot in the build up to that exposition. Unfortunately, although Mary works well as the lead, none of the other characters seem to have much to them. There are the generic antagonists who want more power but are technically not evil, the boy who will inevitably become important and befriend Mary, a plot convenience talking fox thing that shows up at suspiciously optimal times and solves too many problems for what little character he has, and Mary's grandmother who has two scenes and does nothing useful. Peter, who is an important plot point but a relatively uninspired character who didn't get enough screentime early on, has too much emotional payoff around him for how little he has to his character. This makes the climax slightly awkward.
The writing is on and off. Most of the plot is decent enough, but magic is poorly explained. This shouldn't normally be a problem, because magic isn't supposed to make sense, but the magic academy has some form of magic-infused science which has clear rules. Poorly explained magic in a world where there are rules and scientific principles is not excusable. Inconsistent uses of magic happen a fair amount in the latter half of the film and can detract from the immersion because of how noticeable it is. The motivations of the antagonists is directly related to the theme of the movie, which was that progress at all costs is a bad thing. The film deals with the antagonists in a goofy and whimsical way. There is quite a lot about the film that is whimsical, including character interactions between Peter and Mary, a joke which takes 45 minutes to finally get the punchline, any time Mary uses a broomstick or when there is an escape sequence. It's never a big issue but it wasn't balanced too well with the substantial parts of the movie, which were lacking.
This movie is primarily aimed at children and young girls. For that audience, Mary and the Witch's Flower will be a blast. The magic, thanks to the visuals and sound, is impressive and wondrous. The opening scene of the movie is exciting and the lighting is well done. It starts of the movie well, though it's a big tonal shift going from exciting magic to watching an ordinary 12 year old girl do ordinary things. There's enough going on in the plot that you probably won't get bored.
The problems come with the inconsistencies with magic and the plot holes accompanying them. They can ruin the immersion, take you out of the scene and annoy you. The exposition scene towards the end is another mistake because it involved telling us things we already knew. The exposition is likely necessary for children to understand how scenes connect, but the exposition didn't tell us anything we didn't know or anything we needed to know. As far as exposition goes, it was poor. The most fun parts of the movie are where magic is being used to do all sorts of cool things. Luckily, this is the entire second half of the movie.
The core messages were along the lines of "progress at all costs is not worth it" and "you shouldn't change yourself for the sake of change". The messages were clear and shown visually in the latter half. They are well executed because they aren't preachy about it and don't monologue about what the message is and what they learned. For the intended audience, the messages are appropriate and could apply directly to them.
There are some smaller messages, like that you shouldn't abandon what you care about, not to ab use power and that you should take responsibility for the things you cause, but they aren't emphasised at all and are off cuts of the main meal. Of course, there is that one scene where a cow-person is carving up some meat to serve as food, which is quite morally reprehensible. Mary and the Witch's Flower is simple and you shouldn't expect anything else. It does enough to be engaging and somewhat impressive, but not enough to be fantastic and has too many flaws to become a classic or cult-classic.
Should you really watch Mary and the Witch's Flower?
Yes. Yes you should.
Mary and the Witch's Flower is on par with the Ghibli classics. As the first work by Studio Ponoc, Mary serves as the default flagship of the studio. As such, a lot of expectations were placed on this movie. Given Studio Ponoc's unproven nature, I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie. I feared that I would perhaps find this movie to be lacklustre and uninspired. Instead what I got was a film that rivals some of the best works from Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki.
Similar to my favourite Ghibli films, the best part of Mary's story is how her character grows throughout.
The story starts with the protagonist Mary Smith, having recently moved, living with her Great Aunt as well as a maid and a gardener. Her attempts to help with housework and gardening go poorly and to add insult to injury she is teased by a local boy, named Peter, for her frizzy red hair. It's very apparent by the end of the movie that Mary has grown as a character. Originally she views herself as useless and talent-less, this is symbolized by her hatred of her own hair. When magical talent is thrust upon her by means of the titular Witch's Flower, she gains confidence. This gained confidence is perhaps undeserved as Mary only gained her powers by chance. Later, after her talent is stripped away by losing the Witch's Flower, is when she has to face her greatest challenges. Instead of relying on the gifted talent from the Witch's Flower, Mary has to overcome these challenges using her newfound confidence as well as other positive traits such as courage, ingenuity, and staying true to her convictions. Watching the main character gain confidence over the course of the movie is a super satisfying experience that is reminiscent of my favourite Ghibli protagonists; Chihiro from Spirited Away and Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service. They both have similar character growth in their films.
If you want to teach a lesson in a children's film, it should not be too blatant. Any themes should flow seamlessly with the plot and should avoid becoming too much of a focus at the risk of making the film seem preachy. Mary and the Witch's Flower does not have this problem. The primary theme in Mary is probably the dangers of recklessly pursuing scientific advancement. Endor College's experiments on animals are shown as being reckless and unethical. Although these experiments use magic instead of science, it is still easy to make this comparison given that magic is compared to science in the film. Mumblechook, the school's headmistress, explains that electricity is just another form of magic and the character of Doctor Dee is very reminiscent of a mad scientist. It's important to note that the villains are not portrayed as maliciously evil but rather as misguided and with good intentions. The villains are very obsessive over the Witch's Flower which reminded me of Gollum's obsession with the One Ring in Lord of the Rings. As the villains are somewhat transformed by their obsession with the flower it becomes easy to empathize with them. It also adds some moral ambiguity to the story and themes which I prefer rather than having a blatantly unapologetic evil villain.
When commenting on his character design for Mary, Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi expressed that he wanted Mary's outward appearance to reflect her inner feelings. He achieved this by giving her large bushy eyebrows and a large mouth. Those physical characteristics are a great fit for her tomboyish personality. However the best and most obvious characteristic of Mary is her bright red messy hair. As stated earlier, Mary's hair acts somewhat as a metaphor for her own character growth. At the beginning of the film she hates her hair and the teasing it causes her. To mitigate this she ties her hair back with bows. Later, at Endor College, she is praised for her hair's uniqueness and rarity with Madame Mumblechook claiming red is the ideal hair colour for a witch. Near the end of the film she removes her bows and lets her hair down in a beautiful shot that is a metaphor for her confidence and conviction that she has gained. In addition to its symbolic qualities, Mary's hair is just really beautiful and nice to look at. Throughout the film I found my attention drawn to her hair. Some of the best moments in the film feature Mary's hair prominently. Mary's hatred of her own hair is absolutely adorable and reminded me of the protagonist from the classic novel Anne of Green Gables. It's very clear that Peter likes Mary's hair despite his teasing of her. The interactions between Peter and Mary are just adorable to watch. Peter also humorously compares Mary's appearance to a monkey. This joke is brought back later when an actual red haired monkey appears leading to one of the funniest moments in the movie.
The animation in Mary and the Witch's Flower is comparable to that of Ghibli's works. If you are not familiar, Ghibli is well known for its very high quality. Ghibli has a unique style and feel to their work that Mary and the Witch's Flower also possesses. The studio that made Mary and the Witch's Flower consists mostly of former Ghibli staff so the similarities are not unexpected. My favourite part of the animation are Mary's facial expressions and hair.
It is hard to find a weak-point in the film. Every frame seems to fulfill a purpose. Nothing in the film felt like a waste of space or time. In fact my biggest complaint about the film is that I wish it was longer. At the movie's current length it is absolutely packed with content. There is not a single dull moment. The limitations of the kid's movie format means that Mary and the Witch's Flower is probably at its maximum potential length as is. It certainly feels to me like content had to be cut to get down to the 102 minute run-time.
From black cats to broomsticks, everything you expect from a witch themed anime is present here. Despite the fact that I am an adult male and the target audience for witch themed things are young girls, I still find myself a huge fan of the witch aesthetic. Ghibli has done witches before with Kiki's Delivery Service and Endor College seems inspired by Little Witch Academia's Luna Nova or Harry Potter's Hogwarts, but whatever Mary and the Witch's Flower lacks in originality it makes up for in execution. The design of Endor College in particular is very whimsical and fantastical. Endor College is comparable to some of the best settings that Ghibli has created such as Laputa or the bathhouse from Spirited Away. On the other end of the spectrum the design of the real world is also very well done. The movie is set in rural England in the 1960s or 1970s and they did a wonderful job of recreating that. Mary's home has the aesthetic of a grandmother's house and it is just so well crafted that it fills me with nostalgia. The voice acting also goes a long way for the setting. All the characters speak with British accents. This movie may be better to watch dubbed due to the fact that the movie has a British setting and that the English language cast includes 2 Academy Award winners. Despite my praise for the English version, I haven't had the chance to watch the movie with the Japanese audio, so I'm not confident in saying which language this film is better to watch in definitively.
Overall the strongest thing I can say about Mary and the Witch's Flower is that it made me feel the same emotions that I've felt when watching my favourite works from Studio Ghibli. Mary's character growth is extremely satisfying to watch unfold and reminded me of my favourite Ghibli characters. The themes in the film are not overly preachy and I appreciated the moral ambiguity of the central conflict. Mary's character design is Ghibli-esque but her adorable yet fiery red hair sets her apart. The animation quality is excellent and really pleasurable to watch. The film is thoroughly entertaining throughout all 102 minutes. The worlds featured in the film are both whimsical and fantastical on one hand, while being down-to-earth, quaint, and nostalgic on the other. Studio Ponoc completely succeeded in making a film that contains all the things that made me fall in love with Studio Ghibli.
As a fan of both Kiki Delivery Service and Little Witch Academia OVA + TV, I was really forward for watching Mary and the Witch Flower because I thought it was going to be another magical experience based on the trailers that I saw as well constant advertisements on many Local Underground stations across London. When the movie came out in cinemas in the UK I immediately went to my local cinema and decided to watch it with a big smile on my face. However, as soon as I left the cinema I was not smiling at all. I was pretty sad and disappointed about
it. At first, I was shocked at how sad and disappointed I was because I really wanted to love the movie. Then on the following day, I decided to watch the movie again but online this time because why in a hell should I blow another £10 pounds to watch the same movie again. Anyway, I finished watching the movie the second time just to see why I was not smiling by the film and I got a clear answer in the end. The clear answer is that the movie was not that good at all. While it’s not the worst anime movie I have ever seen but its strong contender of being the most disappointing anime movie I have ever seen in a long while.
With that said hello everyone this is Shawn aka KurataLordStage and welcome to my review of Mary and the Witch's flower and with that out of the way let’s get started.
Story and Characters.
The story of follows a girl who moves into the British estate with her great-aunt Charlotte. The bored friendless girl tries to make herself useful in the place that she is living by doing everyday chores but repeatedly keeps making mistakes in the process. Because of this, a local boy named Peter would often tease her for both her clumsiness and her wild red hair, which she hates. She follows a cat one day and finds a flower that she doesn't recognize and upon of breaking one of the bulbs of this flower this substance gets all over her and she suddenly has all of the theses magical abilities. Soon she gets transported to a different realm and this leads to a fantastical adventure where she has to decided to be her old klutzy self or become a new powerful witch.
When the legendary director Hayao Miyazaki originally said that he is going to retire after The Wind Rises he has since said he will make one more movie named Now do you live. Members of Studio Ghibli left and formed Studio Ponoc which is now a spiritual successor to Studio Ghibli. When I found about this on the I was really excited because while Studio Ghibli has become a dead studio at this point they still live on under that new name and I hope that the following films are much better than Mary and the Witch's Flower because outside the visuals and soundtrack the movie suffered from having a very predictable plot that barely had any charm and passion and overall weak characters that don't develop at all.
Let’s start with what I liked about the story and that is the opening scene of the movie. The opening scene of the movie perfectly captures what the movie should have been from its tone, setting, and character introduction
Unfortunately, the best thing I can about the story because the movie literally goes downhill from there.
For starters, the movie is very predictable and I know your guys are thinking right now. It’s a kids movie what do you expect out of this. Am not trying to say being predictable is always a bad thing because I have seen anime movie are predictable in nature however what makes separates this movie from the other predictable anime movies that I have seen is that they were actually fun and have a lot of good elements in it. Mary and the Witch Flower was not fun at all, in fact, I was bored out of my mind watching due to how awfully predictable it was. The moment I saw Peter the second time in the movie I knew how the movie is going to end and it clearly didn’t help that the pacing for the second half was rushed and speaking of the pacing. The pacing in the first half was decent overall as it had a slow start that did an alright job as establishing Mary as a character. The problem comes with the second character Peter as we only saw him in the first half as a generic annoying brat who severed no purpose to the plot however as soon as he appeared in the second half of the movie just speeds up to a point where everything in the second half becomes rushed.
The world-building was serviceable at first but once again after Peter appeared again in the second half of the movie as a plot device the movie flush its world-building right down the toilet where the movie became inconstant with magic system as well all the plot holes surrounding it.
Now that I think about it Peter appearance alone completely killed this movie as it movie devolved into stops the villains and save your lover's life type of plot. It was honestly sad because the movie could have been more than your typical children’s flick that you have seen before in many children anime movies.
The characters were not much better.
Mary despite being a likable person is honestly a meh character who doesn’t gets much character development. I could easily forgive her shortcomings if she actually learned something through her journey in the film but no at the end of the film there was a piece of dialogue which I won't spoil completely went against the overall message of the film
I honestly refuse to call Peter a charterer because he is just a god damm plot device just to move the plot along. Plus he is just a one-dimensional shit show with no personality thanks to him being an empty husk of a character.
As for the other characters they are just disposable moving bodies on screen who are easily forgettable.
The one thing that I hated about this movie was how half fasted the relationship between Peter and Mary was. At the beginning of the movie, the movie establishes that they don’t get along with each other to a point where they will never be friends ever. So why in the hell do they suddenly act like they are really close friends at the end of the movie? That was terrible writing 101.
Overall the story and characters in Mara and the Witch’s Flower were very lackluster and had no charm at all.
Visuals and Sound.
If there was two thing that I can praise about the movie it would be the visuals and soundtrack.
The visuals were pretty great overall that contained a lot of amazing scenery and visual flair.
The animation is great, smooth and still has that Ghibli feel to it.
Like with the visuals the music of the film is pretty great and well directed for the most part.
As for voice acting I personally found both the sub and dub to be pretty good overall but if I had to say which is better I would say the sub because the audio quality and some of the voice actors sounded better.
Ah Mary and the Witch Flower you had so much potential to be great but instead we just got an another children's flick that barely has any charm at all. The story is boring and generic, the pacing especially the second half was terrible, the characters are forgetful and the dub was mediocre at best. The only good thing I can say about Mary in the Witch Flower was the visuals and music everything else lackluster at best and at worse it’s a magical train-wreck that has no charm at all.
If you want to see a movie that involves witches go watch Kiki Delivery Service instead of this.
Hopefully, the following Studio Ponoc movies would learn the mistakes that were made in Mary and The Witch's Flower.
Just saw メアリと魔女の花, "Mary and the Witch's Flower". I thought it was a good movie, very good for a studio's first movie, but it leaves me feeling that there could have been a lot more. I also have some major questions. The biggest one is, you are at a magic school, and you showed all of these students... where are they when all this stuff goes down? It's like they are there for the opening, then they are gone. Other than that, it was a beautiful movie visually, and the story was interesting. I would suggest going to see it. I'll buy the blu-ray when
it comes out, it I don't think I'll see this movie in theaters more than once.
The opening scene was fantastic to watch, too bad Mary's adventure wasn't as wonderful as the first scene. She starts off as a bored, lonely kid who appears to have depression. She has no friends, no parents at the moment, no games, no T.V., nothing to entertain her so she offers to help out around the house instead but she messes everything up. Are these people poor or something? Why doesn't Mary have games or toys to play with?
The characters seem pretty inconsistent and I'll tell you why here. Mary is a petulant and dishonest character. She despises Peter and shows no respect to him
after he mocked her red hair. I understand that she is a young girl who is desperate to have friends and when she found herself in conflict with a boy around her age who isn't very nice to her, she lashes out at him, but I still think she could've been written to be a little more nicer. Also, she told Tib she would feed him milk. If I'm correct, milk isn't good for cats. Since Mary is naive, maybe she doesn't know how to take care of one.
She even lies about how great her day is when she gets home and then has to go save Peter. I feel that this is filler, maybe there could've been another reason for why she had to go back to college or they could've just shortened the film. But due to the film's fast pace, the film does feel shorter.
Mary's relationship with Peter was pretty shallow. How did Mary start off hating Peter and holding a grudge against him, then the minute she hears he's in trouble, she starts caring for him as a friend? This sort of relationship has been done many times in animated films, with a character starting off hating and whining about someone they don't like, then they become the best of friends.
At least the dub was pretty good, the characters actually sounded British instead of Americans.
There were too many rehashes to other Ghibli movies, in certain parts, the movie has scenes that recall Spirited and Howl's Moving Castle for example. I think it's time to do something new. I know it's by Ghibli animators but they shouldn't be making recalls to their older films. It just makes an already cliched film feel repetitive.
I couldn't find many positive things about this movie. I did like the fantastical elements and the action but that was about it. The film was silly and predictable, I feel that a younger audience would appreciate it but adults would probably feel it's childish.
Mary and the Witch's Flower is the inaugural film from Studio Ponoc and the 3rd directorial effort from Hiromasa Yonebayashi, whose previous films include the respectable Ghibli efforts The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There.
Being essentially an offshoot of Ghibli, you can immediately see the visual cues Ponoc borrows from its roots. In many ways, it is as if nothing changed. From an animation standpoint, this film may as well have been made by Ghibli staff - but I say this not as a criticism, as not only will it take time for Ponoc to develop its own style, but this anime
is a fantastic visual feast. Gorgeous backgrounds, excellent attention to every detail and nuance accompanied by fluid and breathtaking animation is what you can expect from Mary and the Witch's Flower (MATWF).
Unfortunately, this is where the comparisons to Ghibli go from being a worthy tribute to a pale imitation.
There are many common themes in Ghibli films that Mary and the Witch's Flower attempts to replicate - the core one being essentially the same journey that Sen takes in Spirited Away. A clumsy, naive little girl bored by her mundane life is unwittingly whisked away to a magical place that will be the setting of her coming-of-age story.
The set-up for this is perfect - in fact, many ideas presented to the audience in MATWF are enticing. The problem is that movie barely does anything with them, and we are left with a very hollow story and anti-climactic third act. The world of the witches and magic that Mary encounters is just barely explored as she faces her trials, and somehow even manages to be boring at times despite its fantastical themes and overdose of whimsy.
As much as I don't want to continue to compare Ponoc to Ghibli, I feel the best example is again the comparison of characters between Mary and Sen. In Spirited Away, Sen spends the majority of the film in Yubaba's bath house, and meets many memorable and interesting characters while living there. Each one helps her a little bit on her journey - she learns something, makes a new friend, takes another step closer to becoming the hero of her own story. You learn a lot about the inner workings of this ethereal yet perilous labyrinth of a bath house that she inhabits. Miyazaki has always been a master of setting and applying it to a character's journey.
In MATWF, it will be no surprise to you that Mary is endowed with the power of a witch. Her magical broom flies her to the "Endor College of Magic" - an absurdly massive school in the clouds full of what seems to be hundreds if not thousands of students learning to become witches. Yet Mary only interacts with no more than 3 people while there, and most of the time it feels empty - aside from some animals and autonomous magical servants that don't utter a word. We get a glimpse of life in the college, but only that and nothing else. Ultimately, everything we see at Endor is nothing but an almost unnecessary loose end.
A great example of this is when Mary visits Endor for the first time. Before entering, she is informed that Endor has very strict rules, written on a giant stone plaque outside its gates. The audience and Mary cannot read it because it's written in some magical language. The first rule is read to Mary, but the others are left unread because they get interrupted. Yet not only do we never learn the other rules to Endor, the first rule ends up being entirely irrelevant to the main plot despite its supposed importance.
I could nitpick the movie and its little faults, but its ultimate failing was the story arc of Mary. Early in the film, Mary meets a boy named Peter. If I must make another Spirited Away comparison here, he is basically the movie's Haku, except that he's basically nothing more than a helpless pawn with no real attachment to Mary.
Peter and Mary don't really get along - in fact, they are not even friends, just acquaintances who tease eachother. After interacting with eachother in real life for all of 5 minutes, eventually Mary accidentally puts Peter in great danger and decides to rescue him - she suddenly cares greatly for him as if they were good friends, and act like totally different people than when we last saw them together.
While there is motivation for Mary to rescue Peter, it lacks conviction from the weak script. There just needed to be more of what mattered and less of the spectacle. The story feels rushed and cobbled together, sometimes even confusing. As far as Yonebayashi goes, it's definitely a step backwards when it comes to characters.
Perhaps it is part of the growing pains of transitioning to a new studio. Perhaps it is difficult to succeed without the constant guidance of masters like Miyazaki and Takehata. Perhaps it's both. Whatever it is, I hope for the best for the future of Studio Ponoc - living under the shadow of Ghibli is not easy. They stumbled a bit out the gate, but there's no mistake that Ponoc employs incredible talent. If they take some time to reflect on what went wrong with MATWF and how to do it right, there's no reason why they cannot build on it.
Overall, the movie is not altogether terrible. It is a bit of a bore to watch at times, the script lacks subtlety and the moral of the story is ambiguous at best, but it has its heart in the right place and should be a joy for small children, especially young girls. The opening flashback sequence is a great hook (and honestly looked like it would have been a more intriguing film), the animation and backgrounds are fantastic and there are moments of genuine laughs and charm, but they are sometimes far apart.
It is, for all intents and purposes, merely decent.
I would say don't go in expecting a Ghibli film, but even if it looked nothing like one, I don't think that would change much.
You know what you're getting when you watch Mary and the Witch's Flower.
Don't lie to yourself. You know why you're watching this film. This is the post-Ghibli age. We are now in the age of Studio Ponoc. Yes, the quality is the same. Yes, the aesthetic is the same. If you want the "Ghibli" feel, you could come here, or you could play some Ni no Kuni. Instead, you're here. So trying to judge this film against its predecessors is almost unfair. Because although Mary and the Witch's Flower is cut of the same cloth as other Ghibli films, the main takeaway from this
review that I want to impart upon the reader is: THIS IS NOT A GHIBLI FILM.
Why is that so important?
The emphasis relies on your acceptance of this film. Many people enter a Ghibli film with nostalgia and glamour on the mind. They expect perfection, they expect jubilance, and they expect an adventure unlike those that have ever been told. Even if those adventures, just as any Disney adventure we've ever seen, may be filled with clichés and contrivances because they "feel good." Because they "make the audience happy." And they do. It is rare when I can watch an old Ghibli film and say, "This doesn't make me FEEL happy."
Why do I make the differentiation then?
Mary and the Witch's Flower is meant to make you feel happy. It is a romp. A waltz through a new-fantasy setting, with dabbles of Harry Potter, Little Witch Academia, and all that goodness you expect from a heartfelt Disney film. Did you come for Ghibli references? Yeah, they're there - the entire film is an homage to all the best of Ghibli. But this is not a Ghibli film.
This, at its heart, is a Yonebayashi film. This is a film of an up-and-coming creator in the industry who wants to make his mark in his own unique way. By the same creator as When Marnie Was Here and Arrietty, we have another fantastical induction of a beautifully animated, well choreographed, outstandingly produced film that will delight literally anyone that watches it. If you have come into this film with expectations, they will probably be met. The animation is simply stunning, with nearly no peer in the industry, except for maybe the subtle designs of Naoko Yamada from A Silent Voice. The art is splendid in every sense of the word, rivaling some of the best background art seen in Made in Abyss. The sound is excellent, the character design and development is everything you've come to expect.
Such praise, yet why do I continue?
Because this is what you should expect of the post-Ghibli age. This is our norm. The pillars we expect of perfection are behind us, and we have to redefine our expectations of perfection. Is Mary and the Witch's Flower a great film? Without a doubt. Is it perfect? No. It falters between its second and third act, has many contrivances of plot that seem to be brushed over less gracefully than Miyazaki would in favour of feeling and emotion. It insists upon it's ideas and doesn't bend to non-traditional stories.
And yet, at the same time, it does everything we want of these films. It's beautiful in every way. It's artistic and magical. It livens our senses, and fill our hearts with joy. All without trying, almost egging us on to notice just how fantastic its art, soundtrack, and presentation all works seamlessly. This film delights in entertaining us. And that is why this film is such a joy to watch. Because it KNOWS its good, and that despite its homages, it can shine on its own. Maybe not as bright as our memories of beautiful films of the past, and maybe not as grand, but at least as memorable, despite any faults it may have.
Fun and simple stories are always welcomed. Children’s fantasy as a genre fits these two things perfectly. We’ve all grew up with these timeless tales that transformed us at our early stage of our development. There was once a time in anime, specifically in the 70s, where studios adapted old children’s literature from the late 19th to early 20th century. Mary and the Witch’s Flower gives off these vibes from my experience viewing it.
This is the first animated feature by Studio Ponoco, a studio founded by former Studio Ghibli lead producer Yoshiaki Nishimura and several staffers that joined him after Ghibli decided to pause all
production for re-evaluation. Mary and the Witch’s Flower shows the true intention of Studio Ponoco, to continue the legacy of the Ghibli style of animation in case Ghibli decides to go belly up, at least that is my own interpretation. They know that if Hayao Miyakzaki and Isao Takahata are gone, Ghibli is done for. With all of the talent they brought from Ghibli to make this film, do they succeed in capturing the essence of a great Ghibli film? In the briefest answer I can give: they do capture the technical aspects of a Ghibli film 100%, but not the spirit of it.
When people think of a Ghibli film, they think of not only how beautiful the animation is but how memorable characters are and how its story grabs you through the end. Mary and the Witch’s Flower only gets half of it right. I would say that is disappointing to think about as this is their debut. However, I would not say that the story and characters are awful by any stretch. They just do not reach that higher echelon that many people would expect out of the people formerly from Studio Ghibli.
It is definitely one of the most beautiful animated films I’ve seen in many years and in the entire Ghibli film library. Already from the opening scene I was hooked by how tremendous the fluidity of the character movements looked and the colors from the magical spells. Seeing a character fly their broom stick was riveting to experience, it almost felt like I was flying with them. It still has a lot of fun Ghibli tropes we love like messy hair and how characters react to any situation. The creativity of the spells and the creatures are always cool to see and shows that they have not skipped a beat in making these weird strange anomalies that made Ghibli unique.
I saw this in a movie theater where they showed it with the English dubbing. To its credit, the dubbing is actually pretty good. It was really cool to listen to characters with English accents in an anime film, especially one that is based on a story written in England. Ruby Barnhill as Mary is great as her, Ewen Bremmer is hilarious as Flanagan, and Kate Winslet is nearly unrecognizable as Madame Mumblechook.
Despite my previous remark on the characters being flawed, I actually thought Mary was a fine heroine. She was funny whenever she acted like a tough girl who gets annoyed at all the frivolous things that you would expect a little girl to do. Her clumsiness was always fun to see as well. It gave some bit of charm to her that made me smile throughout. Now how they write her storywise is a whole other situation.
Unfortunately the rest of the characters do not come off as very memorable in the slightest. The villains are probably the most forgettable I have seen in any Ghibli film. Their motivations for their actions are not explored very well except by the fact that they just want to create an abomination based on magic flowers for god knows what reason. It just came off as a lazy way of creating a conflict for our heroes. It is common for many children’s stories to have villains with half-baked intentions for their evil actions but that should not be a reason to defend poor writing. I am not asking for anything incredibly deep, just give me a little bit more to care about their intent but the film failed to do so.
David is the male “co-star” of the film and I use in air quotes because he is not given much for us to care about him. One of the biggest flaws about the film is the relationship between him and Mary. At first Mary does not like David because he pokes fun at her by calling her a red monkey because of her messy red hair and they constantly argue. It was funny to see I will admit that, but then later on (without spoiling anything) when something happens to David, all of a sudden Mary acts all worried and wants to save him as if he was her best friend. The way it was paced, it seemed as though the writers did not bother to build up a rekindled bond between Mary and David mid-way through the story. Had the film taken at least fifteen minutes to develop them, this problem would have been remedied. Not to mention David constitutes only about 1/3rd of the entire film so we are not really given enough room to care about him at the end of it.
The simple nature of the story might seem like a positive or a negative depending on how you view children’s stories. I am part of the half that believes children can handle some depth to whatever entertainment or story that is given to them. If they had just given a little bit more development with the characters and paced it a little better, this could have been a tremendous debut for Studio Ponoc. But no, all we have is a film that is only good but not great.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower might be a disappointment, but in hindsight I don’t think it needed be anything groundbreaking. This was simply a film that Studio Ponoc needed to make to get their feet wet so that they can construct themselves into a powerhouse studio like Ghibli. The technical aspects of it are definitely there. All they need is a better story and pace it slower so that the characters can have some breathing room to develop. This is one step from Studio Ponoc to achieve greater things and this film is at least a good/decent display of what is to come in the future. Whatever disappointment there is to the film for me, it is only minor.
Mary to Majo no Hana is based on a children's story by British author Mary Stewart. The anime film was Studio Ponoc's premiere work. Basically, they're a group of creators who splintered off of Studio Ghibli, probably because they were mortified by Tales from Earthsea and the only way to distance themselves from it entirely was to start their own studio. With black jack and hookers. Let's see how much of a splash they made.
We open with a building on fire and a hooded girl scarpering while magical beasts try to chase after her. We then cut to a young girl, Mary, suffering from boredom since
her great aunt's house has no games and a broken television. I mean, she has books so maybe read? I know when I was a kid I'd do that literally all day on occasion until my mum caught me and made me go outside because she thought bug bites built character or some such shite. One day she's eating lunch outside when she encounters a pair of cats. She follows them into the woods and down the dell, the path is strange but they know it well. There in the woods she finds a strange flower and thus begins the journey. Basically, it gives her magical abilities and she finds herself in a strange land where there's a magic school. Unfortunately for her, this magic school hides a dark secret.
And no, it isn't copying Harry Potter because there's a magic school. The book this is based off of came out way before Harry Potter. Just like the majority of things that get accused of copying Harry Potter for some reason. Seriously, I've seen the late Sir Terry Pratchett accused of "ripping off" those books because of Ponder Stibbons, a character who was introduced in 1990. Seven years before those books existed.
The biggest flaw with the story telling in this film lies in the pacing. There are some long, dragged out moments that are mainly intended to build atmosphere but they just go on too long. And, to exacerbate the problem, there are some really important moments that get really glossed over. And the big example of that lies in the big "important" friendship betwixt Mary and Peter. They barely exchange a few sentences and go from not particularly caring for one another to besties for no apparent reason. The film is also a bit inconsistent with things like how long the effects of the flower actually last.
That being said, pretty much everything to do with the magic school is really good. The animal scenes in particular are fantastic. The film also excels at building up its big twists enough so that they make perfect sense and you can kind of see them coming but not to an extent where they're really obvious or come across as contrived. And the atmospheric scenes may drag at times, but they are pretty effective, especially when they actually do end at sensible points.
This varies a bit. Mary is a compelling character and her complex about her hair does add some depth to her and is just very relatable. Her great aunt is also quite interesting, particularly when the film goes into her history. I also like that there's effort put into humanising the antagonists, in spite of all the really not okay things they do. In contrast, Peter is just a generic good lad and the other side characters are just "the gardener" or "housekeeper." And you don't really expect the side characters to be super interesting given that the film has to do other things but Peter is a major character. He should not be dull as tepid dishwater. He is, but he shouldn't be.
You can tell that this was made by former Ghibli staff. It looks gorgeous. The backgrounds are really well detailed. The magic school has a sense of whimsy and wonder about it along with some phenomenal visuals. The designs are interesting. The action flows really well. It's just a very nice film to look at.
Young Sugisaki Hana does a great job in the lead role, in spite of having very few voice acting roles. Ootake Shinobu is also very good. As is Satou Jirou. And none of them have a lot of voice roles. Muramatsu Takatsugu's soundtrack is pretty good as well.
It's based off a children's book from the 70s. It has exactly as much as you would think, bugger all.
Mary to Majo no Hana may not be the best film out there, but it is pretty damn solid. It has a good degree of charm, adventure and whimsy. Its biggest problems are Peter, some contrived character dynamics and some unexplained inconsistencies. None of which are all that bad everything considered. I'll give it a 7/10. It's a good film. Tomorrow, Xiao Qian.
This film is very average, the main character Mary is great however the rest of the movie falls short. This is Studio Ponoc’s first film, which consists of some ex Studio Ghibli members. After hearing that Studio Ghibli is possibly no longer making films, I was excited to see their legacy continue in Studio Ponoc. Unfortunately Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a little disappointing, but not a bad start to Studio Ponoc.
Mary is a fantastic character who’s a lot of fun to watch. She is a care free young girl who doesn’t have a lot of confidence. She is constantly complaining about how she
doesn’t like her hair, and she’s quite clumsy like when she accidentally killed some roses when trying to help in the garden, these certainly don’t help with her confidence. And yet she still tries to help others when she can, even if there are mistakes along the way, and eventually this pays off as she gradually becomes more confident in who she is.
Unfortunately the other characters in the film are very one dimensional and boring. Especially Peter, Mary’s friend who is barely on screen and when he’s in the climax, we the audience don’t really care about him. Mary’s grand auntie is also barely on screen, and all she does is provide exposition without developing her character. And the headmistress of the magic school, her motives are not very clear, and it was explained in a poorly put together monologue near the end of the film.
The story is very easy to follow, although the pacing is mixed. The story follows Mary and her adventures after she finds the witch’s flowers. The beginning to the film is very slow and dull, although it gets more interesting later on. The start of the film begun at Mary’s home, it introduces many characters, unfortunately we don’t see these characters very much of later on. The start feels like it’s being dragged on too long unnecessarily. Although most of the film was well paced. The scenes at Endor College were exciting, and also showed a sense of mystery about what the headmistress is really doing. The scenes where Mary faces multiple problems at the Endor College were shown really well too.
Unfortunately the ending was disappointing. There was no build up to the final confrontation, we only learnt of the reasons behind the final act very late in the film and this wasn’t hinted at much at all, this was mostly explained to us during a monologue which felt too forced.
The animation is stunning in every scene, the effort to detail is astonishingly brilliant and very Studio Ghibli like. The animation at Endor College especially was fantastic, the detail in the magical aspects of the film was spot on, whether it’s the water features, or the classrooms. The colours were really bright and vibrant and stood out really well.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower has stunning animation with a clear story, and it’s main character Mary is fantastic. However the pacing was mixed and the rest of the cast certainly let the film down. Although this was a mostly entertaining movie. This is a very ambitious attempt for Studio Ponoc’s first film considering they’re trying to carry on Studio Ghibli’s legacy. Even though Mary and the Witch’s Flower isn’t up to Studio Ghibli’s best standard, this isn’t a bad film, and I’ll be looking forward to what Studio Ponoc does next.
Constructive feedback for this review is appreciated :)
I got exactly what I expected; a bit of a weird plot, but a lot of really fun ideas backed up by some spectacular animation talent.
The main draw of the movie is pretty simple; it's visually stunning. It's got high speed action scenes, fascinating locations, and my personal favorite, incredibly charming character moments. I absolutely loved seeing the cat glare at the camera at random moments, or Mary pat her hair after getting complimented on it for the first time, or the broom bounce around, or a robot roll its eyes over its head. These moments have very little to do with the story, but
I couldn't help but keep my eyes peeled for them because they absolutely made the movie for me.
The story was...simple, and for the most part I don't have a problem with that, I always understood what was going on and could therefore let my focus go to the aforementioned visuals. The one thing that did bug me however was how no meaningful progress was made during the second act. Stuff certainly happens, but the main character doesn't learn from it, and we start the third act no closer to achieving her goal of rescuing Peter. It wasn't a huge deal, but it was a distraction and they could have avoided that by structuring the film differently.
All in all though, really fun time, I heartily recommend it, and this is only 40% of Studio Ponoc's power
Mary and The Witch’s Flower is a 2017 Japanese animated film, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, animated by Studio Ponoc, and produced by Yoshiaki Nishimura, founder of Studio Ponoc. This film is based on the novel, The Little Broomstick, by British novelist, Mary Stewart and is Studio Ponoc’s first feature film. This film is about a young girl, Mary, who has moved in with her Aunt Charlotte without her parents due to them being busy working. Mary has always been an overactive yet clumsy child and this breeds doubt in herself. She spends her time exploring the near empty town and getting use to the area
before she starts school. When she follows two cats into the woods, she stumbles upon a magical flower that turns her lackluster summer into a grand adventure that reveals family secrets and forces Mary to overcome her self doubts. The audience can identify with the hero of the film because she is going through something all young people go through, self-doubt. With an overactive yet clumsy personality she is very relatable to young people particularly.
I identify the genre of this film as a fantasy adventure hybrid due to the mix of elements of fantasy such as witches, magical broomsticks, talking animals, cities or buildings in the sky, supernatural items and the elements of adventure such as exploration, new experiences, and exotic locations. Conventions normally associated with the genres include magic or supernatural powers, no official references to the real world, exploration of exotic locations, and overcoming adversity. This film perfectly adheres to these conventions and uses it the strengthen the film as whole. The main item discussed and sought after in this film is magical in nature, the hero explores an unknown school full of mysteries and secrets, participates in a magical school, and has to overcome their self-doubt to rescue a friend and right a wrong.
The Witch’s Flower or the “Fly by Night” flower is a mysterious blue flower that ends up being highly controversial. It is magic in nature with potentially endless possibilities of application but like most magical items of infinite possibility it is unstable in nature and can only be used in minuscule amounts or destruction and devastation will follow. This prop is instrumental and metaphorical as it gives the hero of the film, Mary Smith, temporary magical abilities, allowing her to discover the magic school in the sky, and is a symbol of power and ambition. The headmaster of the school and the main professor become obsessed with the flower and the power it brings. They attempt to transform humans, non-magical beings, into witches or warlocks through the power of the flower. It is an overly ambitious goal and like all over ambitious dreams it blows up in their face, twice. Originally discovered by Mary’s Aunt Charlotte, the flower once again is a symbol of ambition. Charlotte found the flower and showed it to her headmaster and professor hoping to use it for the advancement of magic but after seeing them obsess over it and perform immoral experiments she lost her ambition and took the flower, losing it in the forest.
I assume that this story takes place in the countryside of Western Europe during the early to mid 1900s due to the scenery, clothes worn by the characters, and the roles of some of the characters. In the English version of this film the characters have British accents and Aunt Charlotte has a maid and a gardener for her house. People in Europe who weren’t wealthy but still had assistance around their big property are rare so I can assume this takes place before World War II, but Mary and Peter’s clothing would depict a more modern period. The historical accuracy of this film is inconsistent, and this fact helps elevate the film. When not worried about the historical or even locational accuracy of a film you can enjoy the small and interesting details of the characters and the settings individually and they can in turn mix and make an even more interesting fantasy setting, which this film does.
Due to the location of the film being ambiguous the director and screenwriter could explore the area in as much depth as possible without making the audience feel like they have been there before or somewhere like there. Granted the scenes bring a sense of familiarity due to almost every person having been exploring in some shape or form in their youth but the location is unknown and in this film is meant to be explored, only adding to the depth of the film when the audience discovers something along with the hero. The college itself is a vast landscape of wonders to be explored. Between the courtyard full of magical inquiries, the main tower full of endless floors and endless rooms, and the recreation center there is more than enough for the audience to be enthralled with. The film at its core is a tale of overcoming adversity. Mary is a regular human girl with no magical abilities who gets thrusted into a world, without the Witch’s Flower, she is unable to handle. Regardless she finds a way to navigate through her problems by staying head strong, believing in herself, and finding the courage to stand up and fight even when the odds are against her with minimal assistance.
The style of the genre of this film influences the mood of the film to be really wonderous. Whether it’s in the small town or the magical school, you are always looking around the screen and asking questions. A good example of this is the introduction scene of Endor College, the magic academy in the film. The college itself is made up of four differently styled buildings, the courtyard is full of interesting aquatic or amphibious creatures lurking and running around. Some of them almost resemble real animals but when you look at them closer, they don’t. This detail helps the audience feel like they have a grasp or understanding of the kind of magical universe they are currently invested in with room for questions. The inside of the main building of the school is in designed to be like a traditional magical school, big and open with lots of floors with lots of rooms and a myriad of students doing different things, travelling through this school by either bubble or a wireless elevator. Another building is a full recreation center packed with students exercising, something you wouldn’t expect in a magic school. All of these elements prioritize wonder and adventure in the audiences’ head and brings more questions than answers.
The inciting incident of the film is when Mary initially goes into the woods, finding the Witch’s Flower. While Mary is exploring, she stumbles upon a black cat that leads her to a gray cat and they lead Mary into a clearing in the woods where the Witch’s Flower is found. Mary finding and picking the flower causes the story to pick up and move fast from that point on. Mary ends up discovering the magic school in the sky, the day after and all her problems begin. This incident introduces the main plot device, introduces two important characters, and is the first scene in the present-day story that makes the film feel like a fantasy. Between walking through unknown woods, following mysterious cats, or finding a pristine blue flower in a field of death, this scene promotes the theme of the film, wonder and mystery.
Some of the greatest difficulties faced when creating this film were the animation and the casting. When I say casting, I mean casting for the original Japanese version. This film was produced by Studio Ponoc and thus was drawn in a very anime-esque style and that style takes an incredible amount of time and effort to draw and animate especially at the quality this film was presented in. Studio Ponoc is the daughter company of the famous Studio Ghibli. Ghibli has been known to produce the most top-quality Japanese animation films for over three decades, having a good amount of their films being in the top 10 grossing films in Japan and in the top 10 grossing anime films in the world. Drawing out and animating a story by a British novelist with only the book as reference material that has a balance of Japanese animation style and Western Europe references must have been time consuming and took a handful of animators. Casting Japanese actors to voice originally English characters must have been challenging to say the least. With only the book as a guide into the personality and behavior of the characters, it must have been difficult to assume the voice of certain characters and finding an actor that matches or exceeds that assumption. Luckily the main characters in this film are female and Japan has an abundance of strong female voice actors.
Two particularly interesting elements of the film were the animation and the source material. When I originally watched this movie in the summer, I did not know that is was based off of a British novel and that fact alone made the entire composition of the film even more interesting. It explained the inspiration for the relative time period but also made the film more captivating because it showed a synchronization of two different cultures, something that is not always evidently seen. Like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, an anime that takes place in a country very similar to early 1900s Germany, it mixes European references and inspiration with Japanese style. I don’t know a lot of films that mix two different cultures in such an effective yet unnoticeable way. The animation like all Studio Ghibli works is a cut above the rest. The way the backgrounds are so lightly yet beautifully drawn allows for the characters who are drawn more boldly and detailed to flow naturally across the scenes, differentiating the items and emphasizing them at the same time. A good example of this when Tib, the black cat, initially leads Mary into the woods. The landscape is very spread out and lightly drawn not looking more detailed than the characters but has its own individuality that separates it from moving people and animals. Mary and Tib are boldly drawn and are obviously separate entities from the background but when they move into the forest and flow by all their lightly drawn counterparts it brings depth to the animation of the film.
Two very important settings in this film are the magic school in the sky and the small country town on the ground. The village is where Mary and Charlotte live and it represents a simple and quaint life, something Mary is trying to escape at the beginning of the film but Charlotte welcomes and is very content with because she has lived a full life and knows of the wonders of the world unlike Mary. The school represents adventure, ambition, and overcoming adversity. Mary stumbles upon the school by accident but is still in need of it at the beginning of the film. Her summer lacks any adventure or excitement and she is having trouble with her self-doubts. The school gives her some adventure and throughout the course of the film she overcomes the challenges presented by the school and the challenges within herself because of the school. Charlotte who is done with most of life and is just living it to enjoy the small things she has left has no place at the school anymore. Even though she use to attend it as a witch, she no longer has magical abilities and no longer has any real interest in the life that she left behind. All her ambition she threw away when she left the school to escape the madness of the staff. I see these two locations as different sides of the same coin like, Mary and Charlotte. They represent different points in your life. You attend well known schools and do ambitious things when you are young and free, but you come to enjoy and appreciate the quaintness of a simple life in a small town as you get older and experience more things. Mary and Charlotte though the same in many ways are in different points of their life and where they spend most of their time in the film represents that.
The most compelling scene in my opinion is the opening scene. You are unaware at the start of the film, but Charlotte is a young witch escaping her school with the “Fly by Night” in tow right after an experiment went horribly wrong. Within the first two minutes of the movie you can already identify the film as a fantasy due to the bodyguards running around looking for Charlotte, turn into flying fish creatures in an instant to pursue her. The lightning of the scene is of a medium distinction. emphasizing the bright and vibrant colors of the fires without completely darkening the scene and leaving room for light from the fires to emphasize shadows nicely. Shadows are prevalent through the scene bringing more depth to the in shambles setting, mixed with the compelling background music that turns from simple accompanying music into a thrilling sound that emphasizes the chase into that turns into a questioning music tone that makes you wonder what happened to the mysterious woman at the end of this scene. The framing is mostly all long shots that sometimes transition into medium shots emphasizing the current peril the young woman is in and her desperate need for escape. The scene has very little dialogue bringing me to believe that the writer and director did not have a lot of collaboration when writing this particular scene. Facial expressions, situations, and events are used to convey importance and meaning rather than words.
I would not call this film the greatest animated film of all time but unlike a lot of animated films this movie is different. It represents two different cultures in its storytelling, has a strong female lead character with room for development, and beautifully adapts a book into a film without chopping out most of original story.
When I first heard of the situation surrounding Studio Ponoc's founding and the release of their first film, I was really excited for it. I know there can be no one that replaces Miyazaki, but I looked forward to what people with his influence could do on their own. I grew up with Ghibli's classics and seeing their evolution over the years, I can see where some of this new studio's inspirations are coming from for this movie.
Visually and stylistically, I can see influences from Howl's Moving Castle and When Marnie was There. The magic makes just about as much sense as it does in
Howl's Moving Castle. It's wondrous and looks amazing, but there are points where things don't make much sense. The animation of characters and backgrounds remind me of the style of When Marnie was There, with it being more modern and more noticeably digitally animated. It's definitely not a bad thing though. The characters are appealing to look at and feel like they belong to the world of the movie.
The only complaints I have of it is that there are points in the animation where characters feel more 3D than their environments, especially in the early sections of the movie. Mary seemed to be separate from her environment in some parts, so it was a bit distracting for the moments where this happened. Additionally, the story feels a bit incomplete and has some awkward pacing. It feels like they sacrificed work on the story for animating flashy sequences. I say this because the story feels rather linear and predictable. I could tell where the story was going quite easily, so a I feel like it could have been more than what it was. It was good and enjoyable, but I feel like it could have been better flushed out.
Overall, Mary and the Witch's Flower is a pretty enjoyable movie. It has it's faults, but it's not bad by any means. I think it's a great first movie for this studio, though I hope they don't rely too heavily on being from Ghibli or on Miyazaki's influence as time goes on.
I think an important thing to know before you watch this movie is that though this was made by people who worked under Miyazaki, it's not the same experience. It's new and different and they are stretching their legs to see what they can do and be in this new beginning. Yes, they are influenced and inspired by Miyazaki, but they are their own thing. They shouldn't be compared to Miyazaki as if they should live up to his legacy. They are creating their very own new legacy and I can't wait to see where they go from here!
tldr: Mary and the Witch's Flower told a beautiful and fun tale that managed to captivate the audience's heart. It may not have been perfect in terms of technicalities, but it is a very enjoyable experience nonetheless.
Minor spoiler alert.
The story is beautiful in the sense that it explores the innocence of the mind of a child—the troubles such innocence may cause. Despite the fact that it may be troublesome at times, the story also displayed how such innocence drives a child to be very optimistic, kind and loving. The story isn't too complicated to understand, but wasn't too simple either. There were times
that the story did some foreshadowing (ie. when the headmistress addressed how Mary's red hair is rare and is the mark of a powerful witch, it also implied how the witch seen in the first 5 minutes of the movie must've been related to Mary in any way). In essence, the story is very enjoyable, and easy to follow, therefore anyone who watches based on the story will not be disappointed.
While there are many positives to the story, I ended up giving it an 8 because I felt that the ending was a little too rushed; there was too lotle tome given for the climax to resolve itself, hence the movie ended in a way that felt a little abrupt.
While art is subjective and is up to preference, I must say that even if I looked at the movie objectively, there was nothing bad I could point out. I've always been a huge fan of Ghibli films, and this movie by Studio Ponoc managed to replicate the Ghibli aesthetic brilliantly. It felt like I was watching a Ghibli film again, and took me back to my childhood where I would watch films like Mononoke Hime with my mum. Heartwarming, beautiful and creative, the art in this movie was truly splendid.
If I had to point out my favorite scene in terms of art, it would be Charlotte's house. Her bedroom was so beautiful that I had taken screenshots as an inspiration to design my bedroom in the future. The view from her bedroom was phenomenal. Also, an honorable mention would be the scene where Charlotte crashes and the flowers fall to the ground. The blue glow that exploded from the flowers were beautiful, and the transformation of the nature around it supplemented it even more.
While I've emphasized many times in my articles about how music plays a fundamental role in the success of an anime, this movie does not shy away from proving that point. The soundtrack was very good in a sense that it always matched the mood and settings present while it was being played. It may not have been the greatest soundtrack of all time, like the works by Joe Hisaishi, but it was far from being just average. It was good, memorable, and relaxing.
One thing I must point out is how amazing the ending song was. SEKAI NO OWARI have always been well-known around the world for their amazing talent, but the song, "Rain" played in the end was indescribable, even by their standards. It ended the journey we experienced while watching the film with a song that felt very comforting. Perfect way to end such a fantastic film.
The characters in the story were crucial, especially the main character. While the story wasn't necessarily character-driven, the innocence of a child that got her into the problem in the first place, as well as her passion and bravery to save a friend are both only possible with a well characterized protagonist. The character development wasnt perfect, as characters like Peter felt a little abandoned by the narrative at times, but overall the quality of the characters are good enough to warrant an 8.
While individual aspects to a movie may be of value when we analyze said movie, most people are more concerned with the question, "Will I enjoy watching this?". Albeit many films have a strange discrepancy between enjoyment and technical quality, "Mary and the Witch's Flower" had nailed both very well. As previously highlighted the technical qualities of the movie was very good, but more than that, the sheer enjoyment of watching this film was simply intangible. I often lost track of time while watching, and my friends who had watched it with me, showed surprising amounts of enthusiasm with the development of the plot. It was beyond enjoyable. It was so enjoyable that you may start to wish to enter the world Mary was living in.
While mathematically taking the score for all the factors discussed previously and calculating the mean will give a score of 9, even if we used an arbitrary yardstick to giving an overall score, I'd give this film a 9/10. It was near-perfect, and will remain in my memory as one of the best films of 2017 for a long long time.
The film is another unfortunate example of what could have been.
Studio Ponoc consists of the veteran staff (from Ghibli shutting down) and at it's very best you have the wonderful fluid animation. However, the crucial problem with Mary and the Witch's Flower was the story and script. You have interesting character designs and a ripe world ready for world building. There's some great sequences but without the writing to back it up, it's all flash and no substance.
Characters were all one note. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but when the core drama revolves around a bland main character, there's nothing to grab onto. Mary
discovers a witch flower and she only reacts to the events that follow. She doesn't have any motivation so when one does appear, it becomes hamfisted and she changes personality. I'm still frustrated with the 'twist' halfway through. All the interesting stuff is relegated to a flashback and I'd rather see that film instead. Hell, I'd follow the random broom keeper. The film didn't really explain why he was there either but at least he had had his eccentricities.
Next up is the setting: The wonderful set pieces are spoiled and there's no real sense of place. Hayao Miyazaki was notorious for crafting layouts from top to bottom and even his son Goro always made sure to keep his films vibrant. However, this film felt really empty. The town consisted of the gardener, the grandma, Peter, and Mary. Even the crazy witch school didn't feel right. By the time the third act rolled around, it stretched out for far too long and I couldn't really bring myself to care as much as I wanted to.
TLDR; Overall, this gets a 6 to a mid 5/10. While it is visually great, everything else from the characters and story was middling to fine. The most interesting aspects are relegated to a flashback at the end of the second act and the rest is a lot of wasted potential. I'd say it's a hard skip.
MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER (メアリと魔女の花 / Mary to Majo no Hana) is the debut feature from Studio Ponoc. If the look of the movie seems familiar, that’s for good reason. Studio Ponoc was founded by and employs several key figures from Studio Ghibli, the famed animation studio that gave us the classic works of Hayao Miyazaki: Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and (my all-time favorite) Kiki’s Delivery Service. Among those former-Ghibli members are Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Takeshi Imamura, who serve as Mary’s writer/director and supervising animator, respectively. So, with that kind of pedigree, Mary must be flippin’ amazing, right? Alas, I’m sorry to say that
just isn’t the case.
Now, before you get the wrong idea, please understand this isn’t a bad movie. Not at all. It just isn’t *great*, which is something you want to expect from a talent like Hiromasa Yonebayashi (who also directed The Secret World of Arrietty). The first half of Mary and the Witch’s Flower is, quite frankly, an uneven mess. The tone is all over the place, jumping from supernatural action to quiet countryside life to magical school in the sky, all within the span of 40-50 minutes. Let’s talk about Endor College for a moment. Even though the concept of a “school for wizards and witches” has reached the point of oversaturation and cliché, that’s not my main problem with it. Rather, the mere existence of this school is *completely irrelevant* to the main plot of this movie. It’s bad enough that I was supremely bored by Mary’s endless tour of the school’s classes and facilities. But to later find out none of that really mattered, other than it just being the location where all the main action happens? That’s just sloppy and annoying.
Thankfully, the movie dramatically improves halfway through the second act. Once the actual conflict was introduced, I got fully onboard and enjoying the ride. And there is *thrilling* stuff here. Every broom flight sequence is exquisite and memorable. The animation and music are stunningly gorgeous. And then there’s Mister Flanagan, a character so charming and enjoyable, I just wanted to see more of him as the credits rolled.
Mary and the Witch’s Flower may not be a home run, but it definitely shows a lot of promise for Studio Ponoc. Things should get really interesting in 2020, when Miyazaki’s first movie since retirement is expected to release. Until then, I remain eager to see what Studio Ponoc delivers next. The talent is there. I just want to see them create something truly original.
Writing my short review after watching this movie in theaters. Well, to be frank, this is just an above average movie.
Now let's start with the story. The story is what you get in every Ghibli movie ever. There's absolutely nothing special about it. If you are a fan of Ghibli movie, then you might feel nostalgic watching this movie because it combines a lot of elements that made you like Ghibli's movie, but it stopped there, they did nothing new with those concepts. If you haven't watched any Ghibli movie before, then I bet this movie will give you a lot of Harry Potter vibes,
or if you have watched Little Witch Academia, then this kinda packed a similar setting with it.
The characters are fairy decent too. You have your main character who thought that she wasn't worth anything until she went to this magical land and found out that she has the greatest magic power there because of the help of a random plant she found at the middle of nowhere. Our "love interest", I put the "" because it really isn't confirmed but it was hinted, is just your typical love interest in every kids movie ever. Nothing special. So are the main villains, they are just cardboard cutouts you can find in other movies, doing all the things the did because of their own need.
However, what makes this movie so much more bearable is the art and animation. The art looks gorgeous. Each scene is well drawn and if your expectations aren't too high, the art will easily satisfy you. The animation too is fluid. If you are a huge Ghibli fan, then I bet this part won't disappoint you. This level of art and animation is extremely praise-able for a studio's first project.
The music is heartwarming, well-placed and suit the entire mood of the movie well. I have no complaints on this area. It didn't particularly stood out to me, but when watching the movie, I found no issue with the music.
Overall, Mary to Majo no Hana/Mary and the Witch's Flower is an above average movie, but at the same time is also an excellent movie for a studio's first anime. I will recommend this movie if you like Ghibli movie and want to get the same feeling in some other movie this year or to those who wants a movie like Little Witch Academia.
I don't think this needs to be stated but this is Studio Ponoc first feature film, The studio is formed by former Ghibli members and is basically going to the new spiritual successor to the great legacy as i assume ( speculation) after Hayao Miyazaki last film in I think 2020 or 2021 that's it for Ghibli. Like every anime adaptation of a novel its best to think this as its own thing not as a replacement for The Little Broomstick by the Scottish Mary Stewart. This film is because an introduction to determine if this studio in the right direction they took
something from children novel to set the tone so did it succeed. Well, I say its honestly a mix bag, they is alot of reason why is this a bad film nope, is it a really flawed film and overly safe yes it is.
It was during the introduction for the school, this was amazing the animators really went tenholds into that section the gym, the chemistry labs..... the detail, animation the lived in nature was great and fantastic.
Animation i have no complaints a lot of hard work and passionate went behind this movie.
Mary the character, she doesn't have that much characterization to say but the subtle facial expression, her tone.... really adds to the believability and honestly want to root for her.
Art design- again the lived in nature, it's not like generic anime rooms where it all tidy and has no personality.
The blend with CGI and 2D was honestly seamlessly only bits I notice was okay that way to detailed to be drawn and Mary interaction in this environment. But utlise CGI but really the hand-drawn nature is what makes anime look honestly beautiful.
Music- solid, i not expert with music so i can't really judge but it was well utilized.
Solid English Dub - All the VA does a solid job with they performance, the different accents.... interesting to listen to.
The Plot : The problem this film is messy structurally, it's honestly all over the place. I kinda sick to the beat the bad guy plot, because they messing with..... This is where the Ghibli comparison comes in. The story in Ghibli are honestly never the focus its always the characters and the bad guy stuff is usually a backdrop. Great thing in Miyazaki work like Princess Mononoke they is no bad guy. Everyone has they motivation and a good reason for the actions, where people associate Ghibli films with is nuanced storytelling.
Characters: honestly besides the MC ( even she kinda underdeveloped) no characters really stand out. I again going to compare to Ghibli again ( impossible bar i know). Where characters do they subtle expressions or how they act you have a good understanding with them as characters. My Neighbor Totoro the Main Protagonist Dad you can understanding everything about them for his room, how he reacts to situations, how he works and plays with his daughters ..... You feel like he's a person, or the Main Protagonist Mei and Satsuki that acts like real sisters and act they age Not as stupid idiots just a little naive.
Bad Guys: they honestly unremarkable and leave little impact on me.
Pacing: This is what honestly killed the film when it comes to structure it felt longer than it should have tbh.
Well, they are a solid foundation yet it doesn't do anything to distinguish themselves as ex Ghibli employees, what makes Studio Ponoc different. They really don't do much, however, I'm optimistic looking at the next project the 3 short stories it's definitely on the right track a little weird and obscure, I like it. Hopefully, people do watch it as its a wonderful children film, it's beautiful and polish yet safe and generic which is a problem.
I rate this 6.4/10 alot of great elements to do it excited for they future work.
I think Mary and Witch's Flower is a solid film, and I'm glad Studio Ponoc started out strong. I hope their second film will be just as good.
Some people are calling Studio Ponoc the new Ghibli, and I can see why. Like most Studio Ghibli films, Mary and the Witch's Flower is based on a British kids' novel rather then a Japanese novel, manga, light novel, or game. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Plus, it has a similar art style. This gives the film a similar feel to many Ghibli films. Not to mention Studio Ponoc was founded by a producer from Studio
I'm not sure why the creator's of this film left Ghibli to create their own studio. I do have speculations, though. It might simply be because the studio is falling do to Miyazaki's semi-retirement, and they thought it easier to start fresh. When Marnie Was There and The Secret World of Arrietty aren't as popular as other Ghibli films. Which is a shame, considering they're both pretty good.
In the meantime, I hope to see more from both Studio Ponoc and Ghibli in the future.
In short, there is nothing bad about this film.
While it is a visually and audibly well made film, I found it was lacking in any kind of "wow" factor.
This is a pleasant film to watch, but even without the unavoidable comparison to Ghibli, there was nothing that made this film stand out or feel special, so it seems like a bit of an unfortunately missed opportunity for Ponoc's debut. At the end of the film you might think "ah, that was nice" and then forget about it, and continue with whatever you would otherwise be doing - this film didn't leave any particular impression
on me, no matter how high the production level was. Because of this, although the animation was great, and the designs were lovely, I couldn't rate this above a 7.
Considering this, I'd recommend this to anyone who just wants to sit down and relax for a couple of hours, and not have to think to much, or to keep your children entertained - I imagine this would make a great bedtime film - not to say that it will put you to sleep for lack of interest, but just because of it's gentle atmosphere.
As far as the plot, well, there's not much to it, it's a bit predictable, but I guess it relays those good old moral messages, so again would be great for children who are new to any tropes that we may recognise in this film.